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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Crucifixion

Matthew 27:27-46, Luke 23:27-43, John 19:19-29

Have you every been ridiculed? Especially by someone in authority? I had a teacher like that once, one who delighted in mangling my last name and getting the class to laugh at me. That hurts.

(Mat 27:27-31 NIV) Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. {28} They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, {29} and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. {30} They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. {31} After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Jesus knows how you feel.

Have you ever been down to the point where the government has to ask a total stranger to carry your load for you? A welfare case?

(Mat 27:32 NIV) As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

(There is little doubt that Simon of Cyrene was a devout Jew. What was done was a common thing in the Roman Empire. There is some evidence from Mark’s account that Simon, or at least his sons, were later prominent in the church.)

Jesus knows how you feel.

Have you ever been down to point where all you could do was to suffer helplessly? So down that when you tell your troubles to a stranger, all he can think of to say is, “Buddy, I’ll buy you a drink?”

(Mat 27:34 NIV) There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.

(The wine in question was drugged with frankincense, to deaden the pain. This was a charity given by Jewish women of the time.)

Jesus knows how you feel.

Have you ever been to the point where the world takes away every last possession you have? Bankruptcy, perhaps? To the point where they go through your closet commenting on your bad taste in clothes?

(John 19:23-24 NIV) When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. {24} "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.

Jesus knows how you feel.

Did you ever come home to find your house or car painted with obscene graffiti? Listen in the night to someone driving by, using your name as an obscenity? To have your family name used as a mockery?

(John 19:19-22 NIV) Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. {20} Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. {21} The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." {22} Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Jesus knows how you feel.

Did you ever have all the “righteous” folks in the church condemn you while you were suffering in agony? Like, for example, an AIDS victim?

(Mat 27:41-43 NIV) In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. {42} "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. {43} He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

Jesus knows how you feel.

Have you ever been in a tight spot with the law, only to have a known criminal give you a hard time about it? A man you know is much worse than you are, mocking you because you’re in the same spot he’s in?

(Luke 23:39 NIV) One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

Jesus knows how you feel.

Now, one last question: have you ever done any of these things yourself to someone else? Do you recall your Lord’s proclamation that even the least of these are his brothers? That if you do it to them, you do it to Him?

Christ’s Last Words

In the last words of Christ we can see Jesus’ reaction to these trials. As such, they are an example to all Christians of all times. They teach us the way in which we should carry the cross given to us.

To the women of Jerusalem

(Luke 23:27-31 NIV) A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. {28} Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. {29} For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' {30} Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' {31} For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

These words, prophetic of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem which was shortly to come (AD 70), may be taken as instruction. But there is more to it than that. They also point out the certainty of suffering in this world. So many of us wish that we could escape all suffering, but it cannot be so in this fallen world. Indeed, the argument is simple: if they will crucify the one and only Son of God, what will the world do to sinners? Indeed, it is possible to see the coming destruction as punishment for what the Jews did to Jesus. There is a God of Justice.

“Father, forgive them”

(Luke 23:34 NIV) Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Here is an amazing thing to the world. Jesus is standing in the gap between God and man – on behalf of his executioners. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. There is no greater example than this.

It is also an example of the trust that Jesus has in God.

(1 Pet 2:20-23 NIV) But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. {21} To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. {22} "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." {23} When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Do you see it? By asking his Father to forgive his executioners, he showed us that he trusted that Father to raise him “above every other name.” Rather than call down the legions of angels to retaliate, he allows God to dispense justice as he asks for mercy for them. We need to do likewise.

“You shall be with me this day in paradise”

(Luke 23:39-43 NIV) One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" {40} But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? {41} We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." {42} Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." {43} Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The second thief at least fears God, and it is sufficient. In that fear he asks for mercy. He pleads no case; he cannot think of a thing which he could do as a favor to the innocent man next to him. He just asks. Though Jesus owes him nothing, the request is sufficient. In this, Jesus shows us the true nature of grace. The favor is unmerited; the blessing is divine.

“Behold your son”

(John 19:26-27 NIV) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," {27} and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

The Roman Catholic church to the contrary notwithstanding, Mary did have other children. Jesus, however, is the oldest, and upon him falls the responsibility for caring for his mother in her old age. Even in this last moment of life he will not evade the responsibility of God’s law. What could be more natural than to ask your best friend (John) to take of the matter for you? Even in suffering, Jesus thinks of those he loves first. For those of us who are lousy sick bed patients, this is a lesson indeed.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

(Mat 27:46 NIV) About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The words (a quotation from Psalm 22) mark the point at which Jesus is separated from his Father. He has now become, somehow, the sacrificial lamb for our sins. As such, his Father can no longer be in contact with him, for God is holy. As the Passover lamb’s blood caused death to pass over the ancient Jews in Egypt, so our Lord’s blood causes God to pass over us for the second death. He is now our sacrifice for sin; taking our place in God’s judgment. So it is that he is separated from his Father.

“I am thirsty”

(John 19:28-29 NIV) Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." {29} A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.

This is a fulfillment of Psalm 22:15 and Psalm 69:21. Psalm 22 is the psalm of the suffering servant, so this is entirely fitting. It also reminds us of one other thing. Jesus was the Son of Man. He suffered just as you and I would suffer in these circumstances. He is completely God, but he is also completely man. God does not get thirsty.

“Father, into your hands…”

(Luke 23:46 NIV) Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Nothing so much shows the complete trust Jesus had in his heavenly Father than this: even after God had turned his back on him, Jesus still knew that his spirit could be committed to the Father. We are good at trusting God when things go well; but in the darkness? The words seem to be a quotation of this Psalm:

(Psa 31:5 NIV) Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

Jesus commits his soul to the Father not for keeping but for redemption. May each of us do likewise on our deathbeds. He knows he must rise again, redeemed from the grave.

“It is finished”

(John 19:30 NIV) When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It is important to note that Jesus voluntarily died. He “gave up” his spirit; it was not forced from him. In this he shows the obedience to his Father which we should imitate.

“It” is finished. What is “it?” There are two possibilities:

·         It could be the work that the Father had sent him to do. Jesus does no more miracles after the Resurrection; that is the work of the church.

·         It could also be the sacrifice. Done just in time – the Jews would have been slaughtering their Passover lambs just as he died – he had completed the sacrifice for our sins. It is finished. No further sacrifice need be made.

Summary

We have seen the beatings, mockery and insults Jesus had to endure during the Crucifixion, and we have seen the way He responded: in love, in pure heart. We can only remark as McGuffey’s reader once put it: “Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ died like a God.” We call ourselves Christians, the followers and imitators of Christ. What would he say but, “Take up your cross and follow me?”

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